Time to audit Pulela’ā church’s accounts, says Wesleyan General Secretary

The accounts of the failed Pulela’a church in Sydney should be audited, the General Secretary of the Free Wesleyan Church of Tonga, Dr Tevita Havea, told Kaniva News.

The Pulela’a church has been mired in controversy for years over its building in Glendenning in Sydney.

The church sank into financial chaos and began dealing with people who could best be described as operating outside the mainstream of the finance industry.

The church building was eventually sold to an Indian mission for an undisclosed sum.

The church lost five other properties in Australia as a result.

Dr Havea blasted the situation at the church, saying it was  time to free church members at Pulela’a from works of “arrogance.”

However, the General Secretary said it would be difficult for the church to take action against the Pulela’a leadership because, under church rules, the Pulela’a leadership  were the only ones empowered to call the quarterly or district meetings at which they could be impeached.

Ruin

Many members of the congregation who were persuaded to guarantee large debts faced ruin.

The Pulela’a church leader, Reverend Sione Pinomi, has become notorious for promises of miraculous financial salvation that never happen.

In the latest incident his congregation were told in December 2013 they would have their Christmas and New Year at Pulela’a. It did not happen.

A source told Kaniva News that members of the congregation had been told that the church property would be bought back.

Pulela’a lawyers have told the church’s headquarter in Tonga they will get millions of dollars and buy back the church’s  lost properties. 

Untrue

Dr Havea said that in the past promises that money would be obtained were untrue.

The General Secretary said the church believes what the Pulela’a lawyers have told them.

“The reverends at Pulela’a communicate with the church through their lawyers,” Dr Havea said.

“The lawyers wrote and said they are still working to fulfil legal actions and when that is completed the church’s properties would be returned to the church.

“The lawyers wrote to us many times and repeated this and that is why the church is still waiting.

“I think it is reasonable enough for the church to still wait because that is what it was told.

“It may take up to two or three years now for Pulela’a to complete these legal actions and the church still trusts and believe there would be an opportunity after all these legal endeavours.“

When asked if it was true the Wesleyan Church of Pulela'a would return to their property at Glendenning in the Christmas last year, leader of the Sant Nirankari Mission leader – which now owned Pulela'a responded – What happened to those Pulela'a leaders?

The Tongan Wesleyan Church has been accused of ignoring complaints against the Pulela’a leaders.

After its annual conference last year the Church relocated the Pastor in Charge of Pulela’a, Rev Viliami Tu'akoi to one of the churches in Vava’u, a move seen by some church members as a reward.

Hypocritical

A senior church member who talked to Kaniva News on condition of anonymity said the church was being hypocritical in its handling of the Pulela’a issue.

At it’s annual conference in 2013 the church stripped seven pastors – who had been found  to have embezzled several thousand dollars – of their titles and ordered to attend counselling.

They were also asked to pay back money they misused.

However, Dr Havea said no proceedings had been taken against the Pulela’a leaders.

Dr Havea said if an impeachment against the Pulela’a leaders had come through the fakakuata (church’s quarterly meeting) and the fakavahe fonua (church district meeting)  the church could have taken legal action.  

But he said it was the responsibility of the Pulela’a leaders – the people  who were being accused of misusing their power –  to call such meetings.

Dr Havea said the church needed to elect an independent person to chair the fakakuata and fakavahefonua so that people’s voices could be heard.

He also said it was time the church ordered its auditor to audit Pulela’a accounts and finance.

The Pulela’a leaders said they would raise millions of dollars to buy back the church property, but the church was still waiting to get monies promised by various companies and donors.

However, Dr Havea said there was hope that a miracle might happen.

Rev Pinomi could not be reached for comment.

The main points

  • The General Secretary of the Free Wesleyan Church of Tonga, Dr Tevita Havea, says the accounts of the failed Pulela’a church in Sydney should be audited.
  • Dr Havea blasted the situation at the church, saying it was  time to free church members at Pulela’a from works of “arrogance.”
  • The Pulela’a church has been mired in controversy and financial chaos for years over its building in Glendenning in Sydney.
  • The church building was eventually sold to an Indian mission for an undisclosed sum.
  • The Pulela’a church leader, Reverend Sione Pinomi, has become notorious for promises of miraculous financial salvation  that never happen.
  • In the latest incident his congregation were told they would have their Christmas and New Year at Pulela’a. It did not happen.
  • However, the General Secretary said it would be difficult for the church to take action against the Pulela’a leadership because, under church rules, the Pulela’a leadership  were the only ones empowered to call the quarterly or district meetings at which they could be impeached.

The background

Kaniva News reported last July that the Tongan church of Pulela’a had been sold to the Sant Nirankari Mission in Sydney.

The expenses for the building of the church had been made through secured loans but payments were regularly missed and the debts snowball.

The loan repayments heavily depended on donations by church members.  

Reverend Sione Pinomi of the church reportedly told the members in 2011 that a Trust Fund registered in the Cayman Islands has donated $10 million to help with church’s loans. Later on he told the church its debts had been paid off by the Trust.

At a celebration arranged by church members the chairperson of the Trust, Mr Davendor Deo, also known as David Maharaj said the loans with Westpac had been cleared by the Trust.

According to document produced by the receivership company, Deo obtained more than $50,000 dollars from the church as a "facilitation fees".

However in January 2012, the church went into voluntary administration and then receivership. The church had lost five other properties around Australia.

Isalemi Naikoto, a lay leader with the Uniting Church in Australia, who was part of the Free Wesleyan Church back in Tonga, told Radio Australia it was common for Pacific churches to rely on their members to fund ambitious schemes and it was time they looked after their members.

For more information

Free Wesleyan Church of Tonga’s property in Sydney known as Pulela’ā gets new owner (Kaniva Pacific)

Troubled Tongan church project in Sydney collapses (Radio Australia)

Free Wesleyan Church in Sydney lose their premises (Tagata Pasifika)

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